Kevin Kelly

CEO | Sensei Holdings, Inc.


Los Angeles

Featured In
CSQ Q2 2020, Health 

Kevin Kelly: The CEO Behind Larry Ellison and Dr. David Agus’s New Wellness Brand Discusses How to Stay Healthy

Kelly has nearly 30 years of experience in the wellness and luxury lifestyle industries, including roles as a founding member and CEO of CIVANA, an affordable lifestyle wellness brand born in 2016 to promote sustainable wellness, and former CEO and partner of Two Bunch Palms, where he helped transform the nation’s oldest modern-day hot springs spa resort into the first carbon-neutral wellness property in North America. He also served as chief branding officer and president of Canyon Ranch from 2001 to 2009, during its largest growth period. Kelly has published landmark articles and reports on emerging wellness lifestyle trends and been the recipient of accolades from the White House, Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency as one of the first sustainable, master-planned developer in the US. Brought together by the loss of a close friend, Oracle founder Larry Ellison and one of the world’s leading physicians and best-selling author, Dr. David Agus, created Sensei to help people achieve a life of longevity and wellness through the most current, evidence-led knowledge combined with a fresh philosophy on food, health, and lifestyle. Sensei aims to guide people on their wellbeing journey and arm them with the tools to grow well and become more familiar with their health baseline. Sensei’s modern wellbeing retreats and sustainable farms are the beginning of Ellison’s and Agus’ mission to help people live richer, longer lives.

What are your biggest business concerns surrounding COVID-19? 

COVID-19 is a watershed event forcing businesses to operate in a very different environment in the short term and rethink how they’ll respond to the changing behavioral patterns of society in the long run. My immediate concern is the safety of our employees and their families, and how best to use technology to maintain a cohesive business during social distancing. In the mid-term, I think about how we will bounce back from the necessary strategy of sheltering-in-place and flatlining the economy. The long-term question is when the economy rebounds—and it will—how will our business model adapt to the impact this trauma has had on social and consumer behavior? As a company focused on health and wellbeing, I believe Sensei will have an important role to play.

The first Sensei Retreat is at Sensei Lana’i, a Four Seasons Resort.

What is your current business strategy for dealing with the situation? 

During this period of stress and social distancing, we are challenged to stay connected and support our employees in three locations and different operations: hospitality, CEA (controlled environment agriculture) farming, and corporate headquarters. First, our staff need to believe their safety is of utmost importance to us by meeting and surpassing government health requirements and practices and sharing information as soon as it’s available. Second, while reducing the daily workload at home, we are holding daily stand-ups, department meetings, and socials via Zoom to keep our people connected and feeling productive, as well as one-on-one check-ins as needed.

Finally, adhering to our wellness principles to encourage movement, nourishment and rest, our practitioners on Lana’i are offering many employees 30-minute Zoom classes in yoga, fitness and meditation to support their wellbeing, and our solar powered hydroponic farm is distributing fresh food to employees and at-need residents in our community.

The spa at Sensei.

How do you think things will look in your industry a year from now? 

Our controlled-environmental agriculture (CEA) farm unit will expand as we incorporate sensors, technology, and plant science to grow nutrient-rich produce that is touched by fewer hands and is less susceptible to social and natural disaster disruptions. In our high-touch spa and wellness retreats business, we will need to respond to a market that has been forced to touch less. So, Sensei will need to develop new protocols and rely more heavily on science and technology to make adjustments to our wellness programming.

Our practitioners on Lana’i are offering many employees 30-minute Zoom classes in yoga, fitness and meditation to support their wellbeing and our solar powered hydroponic farm is distributing fresh food from to employees and at-need residents in our community.

Since we have all been reminded during this “pause” that (1) a healthier lifestyle is vital, and (2) personal balance and deeper relationships are a priority, our Sensei Way message of creating daily habits through movement, rest, and nourishment programs to build a strong foundation for one’s wellbeing should continue to resonate.

The lobby of the Sensei Lana’i, a Four Seasons Resort.

What have you learned from other difficult times in the past? 

History teaches us that our country and society as a whole have faced many obstacles, each with their unique challenges, whether it is war, terrorism, recessions, climate change, or disease. COVID-19 has put us in physical and economic jeopardy. We cannot panic but focus on the things we can immediately control, particularly addressing safety. And, collect the data, understand what we are going through and make clear immediate decisions while keeping an eye on a brighter horizon as we ride out this devastating storm. We need to remind ourselves, “this too will pass,” and adjust, rebuild, and move forward.    

Safe–and entertained–at Home: What business leaders are doing with their downtime 


Morning routine?
As a CEO, I am on Zoom 8-9 hours a day staying in touch with our people and doing research to plan for Sensei’s future. However, I make sure to take a 2.5 mile hike every afternoon. 

Currently binging?
I am watching too much (bad) news lately but turn on Netflix or Prime late at night and watch Picard and Homeland.

Currently reading?
I just finished A Short Guide to a Long Life, a New York Times bestseller written by our founder Dr. David Agus that lays out a simple and effective blueprint for adopting healthier living practices. Depending on my mood, I have Harari’s Sapiens, a history of humankind, and Kai-Fu Lee’s  AI Superpowers, a very good read that describes the next competitive stage for artificial intelligence, on my nightstand. 

What are you doing to spend quality time with those you’re sheltering with?
I have enjoyed something my schedule prevented me from in the past, which is carving out real time to have a home-cooked dinner and conversation with my partner every night.  And, I have a weekly Zoom visit with my adult children.

What are you doing to stay healthy mentally and physically?
Like many people whose daily routines have changed, it is important to maintain a balance of movement, rest and nourishment—three core practices identified within the Sensei Way that promote self-care and lifelong wellbeing. I take 20 minutes in the morning to either contemplate the natural beauty around me or meditate. I take a low-impact hike in the afternoon. And, I try to eat three meals a day made from real versus processed food with minimum snacking in between. My Whoop tells me I am still falling short on the sleep component due to worry. Therefore, I have to find other methods of rest and self-care.  

Where are you dreaming of visiting once things are back to normal?
I can’t wait to get back to the Hawaiian island of Lana’i and enjoy the Sensei Lana’i, A Four Seasons Resort. It has the most beautiful private botanical art garden in the world. I also miss the exquisite dinners watching the sunset at Nobu Malibu and vegan food and charming outdoor courtyard at Plant Food + Wine in Venice Beach.